MAYORAL CANDIDATE John R. Connolly’s rejection of help from independent outside political groups on Wednesday was a welcome step toward a cleaner election, and fellow candidates Marty Walsh and Charlotte Golar Richie ought to do the same. But whatever its short-term impact, the recent dust-up over campaign funding also illustrates the need for changes to Massachusetts campaign finance rules, so that there is less chance for outside groups, reaping unlimited contributions, sometimes from unnamed donors, to play decisive roles in future mayoral races.
Spending by outside groups has mushroomed since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision overturned limits on so-called independent expenditures made on behalf of candidates. Massachusetts can’t undo Citizens United. But the state can require those outside groups to disclose their fund-raising more rapidly. Right now, because of a loophole in state law, independent groups spending in the mayor’s race won’t have to update their list of donors until 2014. The Legislature could easily fix that, requiring groups to disclose their donors just before Election Day in municipal elections, as they already do in statewide contests. That would at least give city voters more timely information about who is funding outside activity.